Month: September 2009

Brotherhood is not sorry Hosni lost UNESCO post

The Egyptians are still seething over the defeat of their UNESCO candidate for director-general, Farouk Hosni. It’s a defeat that probably cost them millions. (At the time the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot carried a report that envelopes stuffed with 50,000 Euros apiece were offered to members of the UNESCO executive committee.) But not everyone is sorry that Hosni lost, Masry-al Yom reports:

“(Muslim) Brotherhood deputy leader Mohamed Habib told news website Al-Youm Al-Saaba that Hosni had lost due to “American-Zionist bullying.” Habib went on to say that the culture minister should not have pandered for Western approval in his electoral campaign but rather “should have stuck to his Arab cultural identity.”

“Hussein Ibrahim, the brotherhood’s deputy parliamentary spokesman, holds the Egyptian government responsible for Hosni’s failure since it nominated “an incompetent and ineffective” candidate to begin with. Hosni’s nomination, Ibrahim told brotherhood website Iknwanonline, “was undermined on a local level thanks to the minister’s tireless crusade against Islamic morals and values such as the Hijab headscarf.”

“Some local writers, viewing Egypt’s longest-serving minister as a symbol of Egyptian autocracy, even welcomed Hosni’s defeat.

“In independent daily Al-Dustour, Wael Abdel Fattah claimed that Hosni had lost due to “the very short distance between him and the Egyptian regime.” Abdel Fattah went on to say that Hosni, over the course of his long tenure as culture minister, had “successfully pressed Egypt’s cultural elite into serving the regime,” occasionally supporting the censorship of books and the suppression of free expression. ”

Read article in full

While the entire Al-Ahram publishing group has announced a boycott of Israel, conspiracy theories abound in the Egyptian press to explain Hosni’s failure. French journalist Richard Labeviere, an anti-Zionist ex-journalist for the radio station RF1, is quoted in Al-Masry – al Yom as claiming that the Mossad had sent a team of ten agents to Paris to lobby diplomats and journalists:

“Labeviere a assuré (…) que la Présidence de la République française a reçu une déclaration du département du renseignement militaire, sur l’arrivée de 8 agents du Mokhabarat (renseignements) israéliens à Paris, et deux autres les ont rejoint, et ils ont séjourné dans un hôtel populaire sans contact direct avec leur Ambassade, ou avec leurs collègues français de cette visite.

“Labeviere a expliqué que la cellule israélienne est arrivée le 21 septembre, et ils ont prouvé qu’ils sont experts dans les médias occidentaux dans «les techniques impact psychologique», et leur mission était de lancer une campagne visant à contrecarrer l’élection du candidat Farouk Hosni dans la phase critique des élections.

“Il a souligné qu’ils étaient plus d’une fois au siège de l’UNESCO et ont eu de fréquents contacts avec un certain nombre d’ambassadeurs européens et des fonctionnaires de l’ONU. Ils se sont également entretenu avec des éditeurs de journaux Français, et étaient derrière la campagne de presse virulente contre Farouk Hosni, qui fit rage dans les jours avant le cycle des élections. ”

Qui a perdu a l’UNESCO? Alaa al-Aswany in Le Monde (French)

German apologists downplay Arab-Nazi axis

An exhibition in Berlin detailing Arab-Nazi collaboration was initially cancelled, then scaled down. The episode is typical of how German apologists play down Arab identification with Nazi antisemitism – a collaboration which was never discredited in the Arab world – the exhibit organiser Karl Rossel told Daniel Schwammenthal of the Wall St Journal. (With thanks: Lily)

One widespread myth about the Mideast conflict is that the Arabs are paying the price for Germany’s sins. The notion that the Palestinians are the “second victims” of the Holocaust contains two falsehoods: It suggests that without Auschwitz, there would be no justification for Israel, ignoring 3,000 years of Jewish history in the land. It also suggests Arab innocence in German crimes, ignoring especially the fascist past of Palestinian leader Haj Amin al Husseini, who was not only Grand Mufti of Jerusalem but also Waffen SS recruiter and Nazi propagandist in Berlin. When a German journalist recently tried to shed some light on this history, he encountered the wrath of the Arab collaborators’ German apologists.

Karl Rössel’s exhibition “The Third World in the Second World War” was supposed to premier on Sept. 1 in the “Werkstatt der Kulturen,” a publicly funded multicultural center in Berlin’s heavily Turkish and Arab neighborhood of Neukölln. Outraged by the exhibition’s small section on Arab complicity in Nazi crimes, Philippa Ebéné, who runs the center, cancelled the event. Among the facts Ms. Ebéné didn’t want the visitors of her center to learn is that the Palestinian wartime leader “was one of the worst and fanatical fascists and anti-Semites,” as Mr. Rössel put it to me.

The mufti orchestrated the 1920/1921 anti-Jewish riots in Palestine and the 1929 Arab pogroms that destroyed the ancient Jewish community of Hebron. An early admirer of Hitler, Husseini received Nazi funding—as did Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—for his 1936-1939 Palestinian revolt, during which his thugs killed hundreds of British soldiers, Jews and also Arabs who rejected his Islamo-Nazi agenda. After participating in a failed fascist coup in Iraq*, he fled to Berlin in 1941 as Hitler’s personal guest. In the service of the Third Reich, the mufti recruited thousands of Muslims to the Waffen SS. He intervened with the Nazis to prevent the escape to Palestine of thousands of European Jews, who were sent instead to the death camps. He also conspired with the Nazis to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. Rommel’s defeat in El Alamein spoiled these plans.


(Associated Press) Hezbollah terrorists practising a familiar salute in 2008.

After canceling the exhibition, Ms. Ebéné clumsily tried to counter the impression that she had pre-emptively caved to Arab pressure. As a “non-white” person (her father is Cameroonian), she said, she didn’t have to fear Arabs, an explanation that indirectly suggested that ordinary, “white,” Germans might have reason to feel less safe speaking truth to Arabs.

Berlin’s integration commissioner, Günter Piening, initially seemed to defend her. “We need, in a community like Neukölln, a differentiated presentation of the involvement of the Arabic world in the Second World War,” Der Tagesspiegel quoted him as saying. He later said he was misquoted and following media criticism allowed a smaller version of the exhibit to be shown.


(Corbis) Palestinian leader Haj Amin al Husseini inspecting a Muslim SS parade in 1944.

Mr. Rössel says this episode is typical of how German historians, Arabists and Islam scholars deny or downplay Arab-Nazi collaboration. What Mr. Rössel says about Germany applies to most of the Western world, where it is often claimed that the mufti’s Hitler alliance later discredited him in the region. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Mideast, Nazis were not only popular during but also after the war—scores of them found refuge in the Arab world, including Eichman’s deputy, Alois Brunner, who escaped to Damascus. The German war criminals became trusted military and security advisers in the region, particularly of Nazi sympathizer Gamal Nasser, then Egypt’s president. The mufti himself escaped to Egypt in 1946. Far from being shunned for his Nazi past, he was elected president of the National Palestinian Council. The mufti was at the forefront of pushing the Arabs to reject the 1948 United Nations partition plan and to wage a “war of destruction” against the fledgling Jewish state. His great admirer, Yasser Arafat, would later succeed him as Palestinian leader.

The other line of defense is that Arab collaboration with the Nazis supposedly wasn’t ideological but pragmatic, following the old dictum that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This “excuse” not only fails to consider what would have happened to the Jews and British in the Mideast had the Arabs’ German friends won. It also overlooks the mufti’s and his followers’ virulent anti-Semitism, which continues to poison the minds of many Muslims even today.

The mufti “invented a new form of Jew-hatred by recasting it in an Islamic mold,” according to German scholar Matthias Küntzel. The mufti’s fusion of European anti-Semtism—particularly the genocidal variety—with Koranic views of Jewish wickedness has become the hallmark of Islamists world-wide, from al Qaeda to Hamas and Hezbollah. During his time in Berlin, the mufti ran the Nazis’ Arab-language propaganda radio program, which incited Muslims in the Mideast to “kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion.” Among the many listeners was also the man later known as Ayatollah Khomeini, who used to tune in to Radio Berlin every evening, according to Amir Taheri’s biography of the Iranian leader. Khomeini’s disciple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still spews the same venom pioneered by the mufti as do Islamic hate preachers around the world.

Muslim Judeophobia is not—as is commonly claimed—a reaction to the Mideast conflict but one of its main “root causes.” It has been fueling Arab rejection of a Jewish state long before Israel’s creation.

Read article in full

* this was followed by the Farhoud in Iraq which killed some 179 Jews

The decline and fall of the Jews of Libya

The Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi knows all about Jews. Jews dressed like Arabs and lived in harmony with Arabs, he tells Time magazine. But they are heading to disaster because they dared have their Jewish state, instead of one state shared with the Palestinians. Gaddafi here restates the old dhimmi idea – the Jews are ‘our Jews’ who must defer to Arabs for protection.

So successful was coexistence in Libya that, under Gaddafi’s watch, Libya became judenrein! For the benefit of Time readers and others who are tempted to believe Gaddafi’s lies, Point of No Return charts the decline and fall of Libyan Jewry:

1938 Italian racial laws applied to Libya’s 30,000 Jews. 600 Jews die in Giadowork camp
1945 two-day pogrom: 130 Jews killed
1948: 14 Jews killed in pogrom
1949 – 1952 : 90 percent of Jews flee for Israel
1951 Constitution abolished. PM Mahmud Muntassar says Jews can have no future in Libya.
1952 Independent Libya bans emigration, joins the Arab League
1953 Libya signs up to anti-Jewish economic boycott. Night-time searches of Jewish homes for ‘Zionist’ material
1954 Maccabi sports club closed
1958 Jewish Community Council dissolved by law
1961 Law requires a special permit to prove true Libyan citizenship – denied to all but six Jews
1961 Assets belonging to Libyan Jews in Israel seized. Only Libyan nationals can buy property (excludes Jews). Jews cannot vote.
1963 Nasserists press for closure of US and UK bases
1963 Murder of Jewish leader Halfalla Nahum, 84
1967 Six-Day War. Jews donate to Palestinian cause. 60 percent of Jewish assets destroyed in Tripoli. Italian and Jewish shops burnt. 10 Jews killed.
300 Benghazi Jews detained for own safety. Two families (14 people) massacred. Almost all Libya’s remaining 5,000 Jews evacuated out of the country.
1970 Gaddafi government sequesters all property of Jews abroad
2002 Esmeralda Meghnagi, Libya’s last Jew, dies.

From Le processus de discrimination des juifs de Libye by Maurice Roumani, in La fin du judaisme en terres d’Islam (ed Shmuel Trigano)

North Africans live in peace in Paris – or do they?

Belleville is a district of Paris known as La Goulette-sur-Seine, after the Tunisianresort once popular with Jews. Ilan Moss in JTA News extolls Belleville as a model of North African Jewish-Muslim coexistence. But outside it, Jews live in segregated fortress suburbs, tension between Jews and Arabs flares up periodically, and even in Belleville itself numbers of Jews have dwindled. Still, the article tries to play down such incidents as the blatantly antisemitic murder of Ilan Halimi as ‘gang warfare’.

“Some 350,000 Jews live in the Paris metropolitan area. In Belleville, the North African heritage shared by most French Jews is overt, which may help explain why Jews and Muslims here get along. Most Jewish residents and workers here are of Tunisian descent, and the neighborhood is affectionately known as La Goulette on Seine — named after a coastal town on the Mediterranean.

“Tunisians are the most open-minded Jews, they are basically like us,” says a Muslim customer at Soltane, a Belleville halal butchery.

“Like the Jews from Algeria and Morocco, Tunisian Jews lived side by side with Arabs for centuries, sharing common food, language and music. Following the dissolution of the French colonial empire in the 1950s and 1960s, North African Jews and Muslims flocked to the urban hills of northern Paris. Many Tunisian Jews settled in Belleville, replacing an older Polish Jewish community.

“On a typical Sunday on the grimy side streets off the Boulevard de Belleville, old men drink mint tea and argue in Arabic outside cafes adorned with photos of the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, while restaurants feature live bands with Arab musicians playing for enthusiastic Jewish dancers.

“The older Jews feel at home in Belleville because it reminds them of Tunisia, where Jews and Arabs interacted daily,” says Laurent Allouche, director of a Jewish funeral home. “But northeast Paris is the only place where this exists.”

“Belleville has not always been peaceful. Significant clashes between Tunisian Jews and Arabs broke out here following the 1967 Six-Day War, and again in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War.

“Last summer, tensions ran high in the district neighboring Belleville, Paris’ 19th arrondissement, when street fights between youth gangs culminated in the savage beating of a 17-year-old Jew, Rudy Haddad. And many French Jews remain shaken by the kidnapping, torture and murder of a 23-year-old Jew, Ilan Halimi, in 2006.

“This summer, 14 of the 27 gang members responsible for Halimi’s death were convicted of abetting his murder.

“Some Jews, however, say Halimi’s death had less to do with anti-Semitism than gang and class warfare.

“It could have been anyone,” the butcher at Henrino’s says. “Even this guy,” he says, grabbing his Sri Lankan assistant as his workers, slicing spicy merguez sausages, look on. “Or it could have been someone named Mohammed.”

“About half a mile uphill, in the Menilmontant district, Kamel Amriou says more needs to be done to make sure Jews and Muslims in Paris get along. Born in Paris to Algerian Muslims, he grew up in a building with plenty of Jewish North Africans.

“My mother would slap me if I refused to help the Atlan family during Shabbat,” he recalls.

“Amriou now runs a successful printing business — with a Jewish partner — and has political aspirations. He wants to launch a political party that reflects the multicultural character of northern Paris.

“While France officialdom holds that successful integration can take place only if minorities renounce their ethnic factionalism, pejoratively known as communautarisme, Amriou thinks the U.S. model would work better.

“America offers the most lasting model of integration in that communities keep their customs while respecting the other,” Amriou says. “I want to create a movement inspired by my neighborhood, where Jews and Arabs coexist but maintain their own traditions and religions.”

“Annie Paule Derczansky, director of a grass-roots organization called Peace Builders, is working to deepen coexistence by organizing meetings between Jewish and Arab women from the neighborhood. This summer she held a halal/kosher picnic with some 150 local Jews and Arabs in the Butte Chaumont, a hot spot for intercommunal violence in 2008.

“We held the picnic without any police security,” she says. “Observant Jews and Muslims attended, mingled and enjoyed kosher ice cream and cotton candy — served by Muslim vendors in the park.”

“Back in La Goulette, it remains to be seen if the next generation will continue the tradition of coexistence practiced by their ancestors.”

Read article in full

Failed Farouk Hosni put vindictiveness above vision

Farouk Hosni, whose bid for the leadership of UNESCO has failed, will now blame the Jooz. And with good reason: Jews worldwide ran a vigorous campaign to frustrate his ambitions. Ultimately, though, the veteran Egyptian Minister of culture did not have the vision required for the job. (It remains to be seen whether he will keep his promise, made in the last stages of his election campaign, to open up Jewish community registers.) Here are extracts of a 23 September piece by Maariv’s Jacky Hougy and Maya Bengal, UN said no to Egyptian minister who called for Israeli books to be burnt (With thanks for her translation to Levana) :

“So comes to an end a two-year Egyptian campaign recruiting dozens of diplomats around the world, along with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. This campaign convinced the leaders of Oman, Morocco and Algeria, not to put forward their representatives, to avoid hurting Hosni ‘s chances as Arab candidate.

“Towards the end, Mubarak also asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the international Israeli Foreign Ministry campaign against Hosni. During their meeting in May, Netanyahu responded positively to the request. Since Mubarak’s request to Netanyahu, Israel avoided attacking Hosni, and the guidelines were not to react strongly to Hosni’s defeat but with restraint. Indeed, Jerusalem expressed satisfaction yesterday, and chose to congratulate Bukova on her victory and not to defame the Egyptian. “Israel is convinced that cooperation with UNESCO will continue,”‬ said Yossi Levy, director of communication at the Foreign Ministry, “and will be enlarged and extended.”

“Furthermore, Levana Zamir, Chair of the International Organization of Jews from Egypt in Israel, expressed regrets. “Too bad Farouk Hosni dit not obtain this position,” she‬ said, “he expressed repentance for his statements against Jews, and even in court they accept repentance.”

Farouk Hosni will surely claim during the next days, that the Jews spoiled his victory. He is not wrong. Until the last moment yesterday when the board members of UNESCO dropped their card votes, Jewish organizations and non-official Israelis acted behind the scenes to steal the Egyptian candidate’s dream.

This had to be done, they said, to the man who promised to burn Hebrew books, and as a badge of pride, said he would be the last Egyptian to visit Israel. But if Hosni looks around, he will realize that he should complain only to himself. After 22 years as Minister of Culture, he did not achieve the kind of accomplishments which could make of him a natural candidate to the UNESCO Secretary-General’s position. The Pyramids remain the same as when the pharaohs disappeared. The International Films Festival of Cairo, which the Ministry of Culture is proud of, failed to break through the boundaries of the Arab world.

Egypt is indeed a powerhouse of dance, history, literature, archeology and cinema – but Egypt had all these despite Farouk Hosni and long before him, not because of him. Instead of upgrading Egyptian culture to the level it deserves, Hosni restrained Egyptian artists, who wished to open up and show the world the fruits of their creativity in Tel Aviv.

He supported the denunciation of Egyptian journalists who visited Israel and returned to Cairo having concluded that the monster is not so bad.

His office had opposed Hebrew literature translations in Egypt, which would have exposed the Egyptian reader to another culture. He refused to open to the Jews the Jewish community’s registers in Egypt, under the pretext it could give rise to property claims.

“His proud resistance to normalization, Hosni explained, is due to Israeli occupation. This position may impress the Egyptian street. But to become head of UNESCO, one must have a vision, not vindictiveness. What became suddenly clear too, is that Farouk Hosni’s ideology is a matter of politics.

“One day, sometime in May this year, the Egyptian Minister abandoned his old views and began suddenly to express fresh positions. He gave order to translate Hebrew books in Cairo, to open and expose the community registers, and stated that he will not be deterred from visiting Israel if elected Secretary-General of UNESCO.

“Last night it emerged that even the innocent Europeans did not buy into this election propaganda. Now he could be proud of a consolation prize: if he did not receive the coveted title, at least he has added a few Jewish friends.”

Original article in Hebrew, no online link.

Hosni’s loss at UNESCO quietly pleases Israel(Jerusalem Post)

Egypt’s press fumes over UNESCO vote (Jerusalem Post)

Hosni declares a ‘culture war’ on Israel(Ynet News)


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.